Thinking Outside the Cardboard Box

It’s the last day of freshman year for Kaeya Majmundar. Instead of relaxing, she is rushing to a friend’s dorm to help with some last minute packing. The friend has a Chemistry final, so it is up to Majmundar to transport all of the boxes to a storage space they’re renting for the summer before the dorms close for the semester. Unfortunately for Majmundar, the boxes have all been folded and taped incorrectly, and as she takes them to the car, the boxes split and the contents scatter onto the ground.

What seemed to be a packing nightmare at the time turned out to be an inspiration.

“There had to be another way,” Majmundar said. “I thought maybe I could come up with some kind of box design that you didn’t need to assemble.”

Majmundar, now a College sophomore, has done exactly that. Her patented box design, which she is now in the process of licensing to manufacturers, allows quick and efficient assembly and has done well enough as a product to win the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization 2012 National Elevator Pitch Contest.

Majmundar insists her successes stem from the simplicity of her product.

“It’s different from what’s currently on the market because with the ones currently on shelf, you have to take the box, fold it, tape it, flip it over, tape it again, flip it back over, put your stuff in, fold it again and then tape it,” Majmundar said. “That’s just a long and unnecessary process.”

The Easy Box, as Majmundar named it, differs from the typical cardboard box because it requires no assembly. All one needs to do is pop open the box, insert the extra cardboard backing, and lift the flap to reveal the box top. It’s that simple.

After thinking up the initial concept, Majmundar drew many prototypes to see if her idea was possible. Things just weren’t fitting together on paper, so she went to Home Depot and bought a few traditional cardboard boxes to fiddle around with.

When she was happy with the functionality of her design, Majmundar took her idea to an invention consultant. As a biology and anthropology major, and self-admittedly “not a business-oriented person,” she chose this path because she thought it would best guide her product in the right direction. Her consultant provided a graphic designer, a lawyer, a writer for the provisional patent, a licensing agent and someone to aid with the marketing process—all things the busy Emory student had no time or experience to deal with herself.

Majmundar’s box is currently protected under a provisional patent, which gives her a year to introduce her product to manufacturers.

She is meeting with manufacturers to work out licensing agreements. Majmundar plans to license her box design to manufactures first rather than producing it herself so she can see if there is interest in the market. Whomever she licenses to will manufacture her product and sell to chains like Home Depot and Staples; Majmundar will receive a percentage of all royalties the manufacturers earn.

If she sees enough interest in her design, Majmundar plans on applying for a 20-year patent.

Majmundar was picked as one of 60 contestants to compete in the Collegiate Entrepreneur’s Organization 2012 National Elevator Pitch competition.To enter, competitors had to submit a short video pitch on YouTube in addition to his or her application.

Before the competition even started, the Easy Box was gaining popularity through the online video pitch. Within less than a week, Majmundar’s video gained over 59,000 views on YouTube. This sparked the interest of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and they emailed Majmundar to be interviewed for a press release about her viral reach.

On Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, Majmundar flew to her hometown of Chicago to compete in the contest. The first round consisted of six groups with ten people each; two from each group moved on to the next round, and Majmundar was one of them. The twelve contestants in the next round pitched again to an entirely new panel of judges. Six were selected for the final group, and Majmundar was again a finalist.

The final round was in a large hall with the panel of judges and audience. Amid a sea of undergraduates and graduates, many of them pursuing business degrees, the pre-med Majmundar pitched her invention for the last time and received wonderful news at the closing keynote: she’d won the competition.

In addition to publicity and the title of first place winner, Majmundar was told she’d walk away from the competition with $3,500 in her pocket. But the weekend’s successes did not stop there. Due to her viral video receiving the most likes on the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization Facebook page, Majmundar walked out with 500 extra dollars by winning the competition’s People’s Choice Award.

Majmundar said the best thing about winning the competition was the support she felt from the panel of judges and highly affluent members of the business community in attendance.

Among her supporters were John E. Hughes (Chairman of the Coleman Foundation) and Jeff Hoffman (CEO of priceline.com). After the first round, the inventor of the Keurig Coffee Maker approached Majmundar to compliment her product and offer any assistance if she ever needed it.

“It was amazing to step off the stage and be surrounded by so many influential CEOs and successful entrepreneurs,” Majmundar said. “When people would come up to me and say ‘Wow, can you demonstrate that again?’ that’s when I knew I had a winner. They were complimenting my product and not my delivery, and that was what was most important.”

After winning the competition, Majmundar decided her next plan of action would be to apply to the television show Shark Tank. The show is a reality television series where entrepreneurs walk into a room of influential CEO’s (or “Sharks”), pitch their product and immediately negotiate investments for their inventions.

She’d always been a fan of the show, so Majmundar was ecstatic when one of the Sharks, Barbara Corcoran, responded to her email with words of encouragement. Another Shark messaged Majmundar on Twitter and still another followed her on Twitter, so Majmundar is keeping her hopes high for a chance to be on the show.

When Majmundar is not working on her invention, she focuses on her studies and even finds time to volunteer. She is the founder of a project called Blessings in a Backpack, where backpacks are filled and delivered to Whitefoord Elementary School with non-perishable goods. Majmundar delivers the backpacks on Fridays and takes them back to restock on Mondays and is in the process of getting more students on board to help with the project. She is also a Sophomore Advisor (SA) for the fifth floor of Evans Hall.

Her fellow SA, Bari Fuchs, says she is extremely impressed with how Majmundar balances her time.

“She is always going to meetings and always working hard to get her other work done so she can focus on her box,” Fuchs said. “She’s extremely driven. I have no doubt she will be successful.”

Majmundar says she enjoys being an SA so much because she loves how excited and fresh her first year residents are. She even used two of her residents, Matt Smoot and David Jevotovsky, in her competition pitch video to demonstrate how her box works.

“I’m pretty sure a toddler could do it,” joked Jevotovsky. “All you have to do is pull out the inside, fold and then insert the support flaps. It only takes about 5 seconds.”

With great successes already under her belt, Majmundar says she is looking forward to the future. She is excited for the day she’ll see her product on the shelves, but for now, is staying grounded by the simplicity and straightforwardness of her invention.

“Everyone is always looking for a better way to do something, right?” Majmundar said. “Well, this is just a better way to pack. I think it has a lot of potential as long as I take the right direction and keep pushing.”

— By Jenna Kingsley